State officials say Hurricane Michael debris could have catastrophic impact

By: Alicia Turner | WCTV Eyewitness News
March 12, 2019

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- Cleanup in the Florida Panhandle has been underway since Hurricane Michael hit in October, but new information shows the state is nowhere near the finish line.

"They need to do something about it," said Wakulla County resident Debra Robison.

But, for many, the question is, what?

Tuesday, state forestry officials expressed concern that communities still plagued by hurricane debris will soon face the threat of massive wildfires and flooding.

"If we don't get breaks in there, if we don't start to remove that debris, we're going to see catastrophic fire," said Jim Karel, the state's forestry director.

A catastrophe folks like Robison have a hard time wrapping their mind around. She says the Apalachicola National Forest is just on the other side of the trees that line her home. She explained living that close to an area that could be impacted by wildfires is scary.

"It's very important, you have to stay on top of things or things are going to get bad," Debra said.

The forestry service estimates it would take the equivalent of 2.5 million truckloads to remove the debris left by the storm. Residents still say something has to be done.

“It's important to get ahead of the burns. It's going to happen whether it’s a lightning strike or someone lights the woods on fire by accident or on purpose. A fire is bound to happen. It's a natural factor. The only thing is we have to make sure it's all under control,” said Nicholas Mohr.

Nicholas Howell echoed the importance of getting ahead of an issue like this. Howell went on to say, “It’s very important to make sure that our wild land fires don't go into the urban areas. That's a huge concern."

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